The $700 Billion Financial Bailout Failed – Good!

Posted on September 29th, 2008 in Politics by EngineerBoy

Just Say No

Today, the US House of Representatives voted against the proposed government bailout of US financial institutions.  Good.  We have a mostly free marketplace, and the less government intervention the better.  Yes, the government should set the rules, and perhaps even adjust them every great once in a while.  What the government should NOT be doing is constantly tweaking the rules and then bailing out the losers simply because they happen to be large.

Having the government artifically control the marketplace is…well…communism.  And we all know how well that has worked, historically.  It’s easy to understand why the government feels the need to do something – if they don’t, and the natural market corrections occur, many people will feel a lot of pain.  And most of those people will also be voters, and injured voters tend to react by throwing out whoever is holding the hot potato when the music stops.

And the music is definitely stopping.  After years and years of reckless financial policies, major institutions are finding that their worth is now based on undercapitalized loans to unqualified borrowers on overpriced assets.  Historically, we had regulations that prevented our large financial institutions from leveraging themselves so unwisely, but those regulations have been eroded over the last decade or so, and now the bill has come due.

And the bill must be paid, no doubt about it.  However, the bill should be paid now, by virtue of natural market corrections (with the associated, short-term pain) rather than through government bailout money, which can only lead to a solution that is, at best, inefficient, and, at worst, rigged to benefit the politically powerfully.  Personally, I trust the capitalist marketplace more than I trust the Federal government when it comes to the free market.  The government’s job is to set up a level playing field, but then not interfere in the game.

Can you imagine the outrage if, with four minutes to go in the Super Bowl, the NFL announced a bunch of rule changes, applicable immediately and designed to impact the outcome of the game in progress, simply because the team they preferred wasn’t winning?  Say it was the Dallas Cowboys versus the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFL desperately wanted Dallas to win because it would mean much higher fan interest and revenues for the following seasons, and Dallas is behind with 4 minutes to play.  So, the NFL announces that the Cowboys can immediately gain access to the Ravens full playbook, and listen in on all their called plays and headset communications.  Oh, and the Ravens have to bench their top offensive and defensive players, and their head coach has to spend the last four minutes of the game in a sound-proof isolation booth and can’t communicate with any of his players or coaches.

That would be outrageous.  But that’s what they’re trying to do with this bailout.  Every financial transaction is like a bet, at some level.  Every

Framing and headerboards – nice!

Posted on September 22nd, 2008 in Remodeling by mynagirl
Hey, now we have the bones for a bar -- no more wall!!

Hey, now we have the bones for a bar -- no more wall!!

So check this out!  We have a headerboard that goes across the span, and the makings of a half-wall / bar in our new footprint!  How great is that?!I didn’t really get to help as much as I wanted — what with the vapors, I was pretty miserable and Engineerboy was really worried.  I did eventually feel well enough to help, so I was doing light work like drilling holes and putting screws in but Scott was watching me like a hawk in case I decided to keel over.  It was like This Old House meets House!!!  😀
Anyway, I’m quite proud of our (Engineerboy’s) job, the headerboard is absolutely level, which is pretty impressive considering our house is old enough that “straight lines” are more memories than realities.  And now it’s like our whole house has opened up — well, except for all the crap in the way that we had to move out of the way that’s now in the middle of the dining room.  But we’re undaunted; that stuff is headed for storage bins and the storage area.

Prettiest headerboard you ever saw... earlier in the day before the studs got removed.

Prettiest headerboard you ever saw... earlier in the day before the studs got removed.

Hi Mom.  Does the wall being gone help us get fed faster or anything?

Hi Mom. Does the wall being gone help us get fed faster or anything?

Now we get to build out the bar and tile it!!

Day Two: Learning What’s Under There

Posted on September 20th, 2008 in Remodeling by mynagirl

So Project Wall Remove proceeds.  It’s funny that we moved out of the Houston Heights into Brenham, only to be embarking on a quintessentially Heights-ian project of remodeling our 2/1 tiny bungalow on an undersized lot. 

The rerouted wiring behind the kitchen wall.

The rerouted wiring behind the kitchen wall.

Today was spent with rerouting wiring (Engineerboy), cutting through wall (Engineerboy), and removing about 1 zillion nails (Mynagirl).  Oh and shop-vac’ing the hell outta the inside of what-used-to-be-a-wall.  (Including spider eggs, yuck!!) 

We learned that the kitchen floor is higher than the dining room floor because the kitchen has 3-count-them-3 layers of linoleum layed down on top of one another.  And there’s plywood underneath the 3 layers of linoleum on top of the subfloor in the kitchen.  I don’t know why, because it’s the same subfloor as in the rest of the house I think.  Maybe there was damage to the subfloor about 15 years ago before the first layer of linoleum went down?  Maybe there used to be carpet in the rest of the house?  Unknown, but I can tell you that Project #2 is going to be replacing that damned crappy floor.  It’s all torn to hell. 

Here's what underneath there...

Here's what underneath there...

Here's the wall that will be gone tomorrow

Here's the wall that will be gone tomorrow

We had a heck of a decision on the part of the wall that’s still abutting the west outside wall — the side that goes beneath the cabinets is just plywood, which I think is sort of tacky, but there’s really nothing to be done to it since it goes behind the cabinets.  And we’re not replacing the cabinets — they’re actually pretty solid.  So we had to decide if we were going to mess with that wall.  In the end we decided not to, and bought a RotoZip to cut into the plywod wall with a precise depth, pretty sweet.

Tomorrow is header board and sawing through the studs… sweet.

Liposuction on a Pig — The Remodel begins

Posted on September 19th, 2008 in Remodeling by mynagirl
Our sweet little cottage

Our sweet little cottage

One of the funny things about buying a “starter” home or a “fixerupper” is that it’s hard to get started. 
 
I can go with the flow in a lot of areas and be perfectly happy with temporary fixes, but when it comes to things that are permanent I don’t like to just make a hasty decision.  Nor do I like to make a cheap one.  Permanent things are worth a little money to get the thing that makes one’s soul smile a little.  Especially when it’s something as integral to your everyday life as your home. 
 
But it leaves me a bit poleaxed.  I mean, if the wall is crappy thrice-painted paneling with plastic trim, do I really want to slap another coat of paint on it just for the sake of a little color?  There are no “little victories” in the aesthetic realm of a starter cottage like this.  The engineering side of the house gets to do little miracles constantly and can make things infinitely better with a magnetic door stop or a click-just-right-to-get-only-one-square paper towel holder.  But finishing touches on a house that needs to be gutted and redone?  Lipstick on a pig just won’t do it.  Liposuction is more likewhat the doctor ordered. 
 
So now compound that hesitation with the daunting logistics of doing reconstruction in a tiny house.  Because, well, if we knock out that wall, where do we put the stuff that’s there right now?  If I start this particular project, how long will I be taking my morning shower with the hose in the backyard?  How long can we live without a stove?

Here we go!!!

Here we go!!!

This line of thinking ended today. After endless hemming and hawing and two years of living with industrial-spray-gun-flat-white wall paint, a bathroom counter with (ugh) cigarette burns on it from the previous owners, and chipped linoleum (the list goes on), we decided to do the big before the little. And down came the wall with that unmistakably satisfying squeak of nails lifting from two-by-fours via crowbar leverage. Ahhhhh!

Scalpal, nurse! Or maybe just the sledgehammer

Engineerboy took prybar to dining room wall (my mom may disown me for this, but we don’t even own a sledgehammer) and proceeded to easily rip off the paneling with gloved hands. Next came down the cheap plywood on both sides. There was no drywall to speak of — that’s right, that wall in our kitchen is just painted plywood. Or it was!! Now the tiny assholes-and-elbows kitchen will get to expand lazily into the “dining room” which currently serves as a place for a toolchest, a sideboard full of computer hardware, and an overstuffed set of flimsy corner shelves from Wal-Mart that look like they’ll crater if they have to hold one more polical commentary tome or Unix Sys Admin manual. We